Power Lawyers: Corporate Dealmakers

Think your job is detail-oriented? These men and women cross every "T" on the big-ticket transactions that keep money flowing to Hollywood.

Dan Black
Greenberg Traurig

Black is the rare Hollywood dealmaker who straddles Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. This year he shepherded toy giant Pokemon's launch of its online gaming platform and two new video games. And he helped the Broadcast Film Critics Association create its second awards show -- the Critics' Choice Television Awards. Black's work covered not only the broadcast of the show, which aired on ReelzChannel in June, but also the digital presentation, including live streaming. Black's other clients include AEG Live and XDC, among others.

OFF-DUTY Black can often be found behind home plate at Dodgers games (look for him on TV and text him -- he loves that) or with his family in a rustic cabin just outside of Glacier National Park in Montana.

John Burke
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

One of the leading lawyers specializing in independent movie finance, Burke was involved in such major deals as this year's Goldman Sachs and Assured Guaranty's agreement to provide a credit facility critical to the reorganization of the Weinstein Co. and pacts for Comerica Bank and Union Bank to finance movies through Summit Entertainment and Relativity Media, respectively. But Burke -- whose all-business corporate style masks a part-time surfer and a collector of guitars he admits he can barely play -- is equally known for the annual bocce ball party he throws at Cannes, which this year drew 300 attendees. "It's turned into an important event there," he says, "frankly because a lot of the larger parties have been canceled thanks to the economic crisis."

Joseph Calabrese
O'Melveny & Myers

Calabrese this year represented production/financing outfit Legendary Pictures in its massive leveraged recapitalization. But the deal didn't come without Calabrese sacrificing part of his vacation to retreat to "a bedroom or bathroom so I could be on a conference call during all hours of the night," he recalls. He also represents Open Road, the newly formed venture between exhibitors AMC and Regal, which will distribute roughly 10 films a year. And he repped the International Olympic Committee in its $4.38 billion deal to place the next four Olympics with NBC.

OFF-DUTY Calabrese drives an Aston Martin Vantage convertible and also has a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 (think James Bond) in his stable.

Shaun Clark
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

Clark makes this list for the first time for perhaps the year's most eye-popping deal: He helped reality star Bethenny Frankel and Skinnygirl Cocktails sell the Skinnygirl Margaritas line to Fortune Brands for roughly $120 million. The pact still has Hollywood buzzing about nontraditional opportunities for talent. Clark structured the deal so that Frankel receives a big check and will retain control of the Skinnygirl brand outside of the beverage space -- paving the way for growth in other sectors, including cooking, nutritional products and apparel. "I have a very sophisticated, intelligent client who is willing to work very hard to accomplish her goals," says Clark, who also represents Hugh Hefner.

OFF-DUTY The diehard soccer fan has attended the World Cup in 1994, 2006 and 2010 and is already making plans for Brazil in 2014.

Robert Darwell
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

After putting the final touches on Disney's sale of its Miramax unit, Darwell then engineered the $70 million sale of The Real World producer Bunim/Murray Productions to his French client Banjay, which will combine it with another reality powerhouse, Rocket Science. Darwell then focused his attention on Sundance, where client Liddell Entertainment was especially active, selling the Tobey Maguire drama The Details to the Weinstein Co. for $7 million and picking up the horror pic Silent House for about $3 million. "We've seen a nice pickup on the motion picture side," says Darwell, optimistic that the indie film business has finally improved.

OFF-DUTY The globetrotting Darwell so enjoyed working from Paris last summer that he's headed to Rome for a month after September's Toronto International Film Festival.

Nancy Derwin-Weiss
Davis Wright Tremaine

What's the difference between a film in the can and a movie in the multiplex? Marketing, of course. And often, Derwin-Weiss' involvement. She counsels studio clients on a range of cutting-edge issues, including contests, sweepstakes, social media advertising, smartphone app development and user-generated content. The issues can be treacherous: Overstepping the bounds on a privacy issue, for instance, can lead to some negative PR. As Derwin-Weiss puts it, "Your brand is at stake." Newly relocated from her previous home in the L.A. office of Chicago-based Wildman Harrold, the former studio exec (she was in-house at Paramount for seven years) continues to represent Summit, Imax, Participant Media, Paramount, CBS Films and others. 

WEEKEND ESCAPE "What is that? I have two small children."

Michael Donaldson
Donaldson & Callif

One of the fiercest advocates for documentary filmmakers and an expert on fair use law, Donaldson knows as well as anyone how much of a copyrighted work can be used without paying a license (although the answer, as he'll tell you, is that no one knows for sure). He handled this year's best documentary Oscar winner Inside Job as well as eight docs at Sundance. And he published the American Bar Association's legal guide for independent filmmakers. He's now helping British directors Richard Finney and Anthony Baxter make a documentary about Donald Trump's efforts to build a golf complex in Scotland that many believe is negatively impacting the locals. "I'm helping them through the insurance process and dealing with claims," he says. "It's the old David vs. Goliath situation. I'm always up for that, if David is right and speaking the truth."

OFF-DUTY The ultrafit Donaldson has recently taken up "globe walking." Huh? "They're balls made of polyurethane, and once you get used to them, you can walk on them. I found a circus supply store and ordered one and taught myself."

Ruth Fisher
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

As part of one of the year's biggest transactions, Fisher repped Vivendi in the $5.8 billion sale of its 20 percent interest in NBCUniversal to General Electric, which paved the way for Comcast's January acquisition of NBCU. "It was one of those transformative deals," she says. Fisher also represented online video game developer and publisher Riot Games in the majority stake acquisition of the company by Tencent Holdings Limited. Though Fisher works in a buttoned-down segment of Hollywood law, she's always up for an adventure. This summer she traveled with her family to the Arctic Circle for six days on a National Geographic cruise. "I have two teenage boys -- we like to do stuff that takes us outside of L.A.," she says. "I think the Arctic Circle does that."

John Frankenheimer
Loeb & Loeb

What does it take to thrive for decades as an A-list music-corporate attorney? "The ability to evolve and do different things from year to year," says Frankenheimer. This year, he represented Warner Music Group in connection with its pending sale to Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, and on the other side of the table he represented TuneWiki, a popular music/lyric-based application, in obtaining recording industry licenses. Frankenheimer, married to set decorator Leslie McCarthy Frankenheimer, also represents a number of individual artists including Diana Ross and Vince Gill, though the prospect for breaking new artists is not what it once was. "As painful as [current times have] sometimes been, I'm optimistic," he says. 

Josh Grode
Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor

Grode played a starring role in two of the year's most-discussed Hollywood deals: He repped Filmyard Holdings, the investment group that includes construction mogul Ron Tutor and Colony Capital, in its acquisition of Miramax from Disney (as well as its $400 million acquisition debt financing with Barclays and Jefferies & Co.). He also repped Twilight studio Summit in its $750 million debt refinancing, which closed in March and allowed the company to retire its existing debt and disburse big payouts to investors. It was full circle for Grode, who put together the original financing for the company in 2007. "Given where the markets are right now, we realized there was an opportunity to execute a terrific refinancing," says the UCLA alum, who attends his alma mater's men's basketball games and is "trying" to be a fan of the mediocre football team.

OFF-DUTY Grode coaches his three kids' sports teams. "Pretty much every athletic endeavor out there -- I'm a football coach, basketball coach and maybe baseball."

Andrew Hurwitz
Schreck Rose Dapello Adams & Hurwitz

Hurwitz, a film festival circuit mainstay for nearly his entire career, spent another year on the road, including repping two big Sundance sales, Homework (retitled The Art of Getting By) and The Bengali Detective, both to Fox Searchlight. He put together How I Met Your Mother star and director Josh Radnor's forthcoming dramedy Liberal Arts and reps Tom McCarthy, another thesp-turned-director, who helmed this year's Searchlight comedy Win Win.

BLACKBERRY OR IPHONE? "BlackBerry for business, iPad for leisure."

Mickey Mayerson
Loeb & Loeb

Mayerson made such a good impression representing Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media in a $100 million-a-year deal to supply movies to Netflix that after the contracts were signed, Netflix promptly hired him for another (secret) licensing deal, now being negotiated. "I'd say that a third of my business has come to me that way," he explains. This year, Mayerson also helped producer River Road score U.S. distribution for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.

WEEKEND ESCAPE Mayerson has a vacation home on Lake Arrowhead, where he drives his boat but doesn't water ski. "I'm really good at dropping anchor, having a beer and cranking the tunes."

Bobby Rosenbloum
Greenberg Traurig

When technology companies wish to acquire licensing rights to launch music services, it's a reasonable bet that Rosenbloum, appearing for the first time on the list, will be at the negotiating table. He estimates that he represents 75 percent of the companies in the digital music space, including Microsoft, AT&T Mobility, Digital Media Association, Rdio, Slacker and Omnifone. "Name a device, I have it in my briefcase," he says. "When I go through airport security and have to open it, they think I work for RadioShack." Rosenbloum is also working on a number of the rights issues associated with cloud storage locker services.  

Stephen Saltzman
Loeb & Loeb

As one of the industry's top international deal lawyers, Saltzman recently flew around the world in eight days, stopping for business in Berlin and China. He's shepherding China's $100 million Christian Bale epic Heroes of Nanking, repping director Zhang Yimou and New Pictures Film Co. and helping sell the movie in foreign markets. "I've always had a knack and expertise for cross-cultural deals," he says. "I'm effective at getting each side to understand and hopefully appreciate the other's perspective."

WEEKEND ESCAPE The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel. "Not only because of the beautiful setting but because I was married there 20 years ago this August."

Stephen Scharf
O'Melveny & Myers

Scharf, part of his firm's top-notch showbiz finance group, this year helped Peter Schlessel and Graham King create the distribution company FilmDistrict, which roared out of the gate with the hits Insidious and Soul Surfer. "In an era when companies are talking about contrasting, closing and not getting enough financing, we helped found a startup that right out of the box is successful," he boasts. Scharf also helped Peter Chernin found Chernin Asia, and he assisted MGM, while emerging from bankruptcy, to secure production rights to The Hobbit.

OFF-DUTY Scharf and his wife own a vineyard in Sonoma County where they produce Cabernet and Zinfandel under the label Dark Horse. But he doesn't love the name. "I should have a wine-naming contest." 

Robert Schumer
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

One of New York's most prominent media M&A lawyers, Schumer was center stage this year in the $3.3 billion sale of Warner Music Group, and he repped Al Gore's Current TV in signing former MSNBC star Keith Olbermann to a five-year contract. "He's one of the most savvy dealmakers out there," says WME CFO Jason Lublin, who worked with Schumer during the WMA-Endeavor merger. Beginning in 1989 when he represented Warner Communications in its megamerger with Time Inc., Schumer has worked on NBC's $2.7 billion purchase of Telemundo in 2002 and CBS Corp.'s $2.5 billion buyout of King World Productions. "I would not do a major transaction without him," says Time Warner Cable CFO Rob Marcus. "He is an outstanding business and strategic adviser."

Larry Ulman
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

As one of the town's top corporate finance specialists, Ulman helps studios scour the globe searching for money to make movies. "It's interesting and frustrating at the same time; we are chasing lots of transactions," he says. Ulman represented Paramount in its $250 million distribution and co-financing deal with Skydance Pictures, the production company of David Ellison, son of billionaire tech mogul Larry Ellison. The partnership is off to a good start -- Skydance's first investment was the Coen brothers' True Grit, which grossed $250 million worldwide. Ulman also repped Fox in a multiyear extension of its slate financing with Dune Entertainment and Universal in the amendments to its multi-year slate financing deal with Relativity Media.

WEEKEND ESCAPE With four children out of the house, Ulman and wife Jane have taken up horseback riding in Moorpark and Simi Valley.

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